You remember that “good guy” in high school that had a noble head on his shoulders, a bright future, looked a little young for his age, and roamed the halls with a tight circle of friends that were all generally overlooked?
Now do you remember how he always seemed to befriend one of the most beautiful/outgoing/popular girls throughout his four years of school? Do you remember, during his junior year, when he had finally had enough of listening to firsthand accounts about how all of the “D-Bags” took advantage of that girl? Do you remember when he worked up enough courage to finally ask her to Prom in hopes of building a foundation for their last year as pre-collegiate adolescents?
Do you remember how he sent her on an anonymous scavenger hunt around the town, leading her to a tucked away bridge in the middle of a mindless gap of town? Do you remember hearing the story about how, when she arrived, he stood there in a button down shirt and dress pants; sweating his butt off and holding a single rose in front of a giant poster that read “Prom?” in scribbled red marker. Do you remember hearing about how, after providing a constant shoulder to lean on for the better part of two years, she slowly walked up to him and said “I’m sorry, I can’t” because she already said “Yes!” to the senior starting quarterback that would eventually become a giant flame out?
Well that boy is exactly what the Sixers are in the crowded Eastern Conference High. They are the young, bright future boy that just got denied everything they deserved.
They got denied because of the older recipient of the “Least Likely to Succeed Award” that was handed out Monday night in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals; the Boston Celtics. They were denied because they had a few things that separated them from that “senior quarterback”. They were denied because it wasn’t their time.
Maybe it’s a stretch but I can’t stop thinking the Philadelphia deserved to be in the Eastern Conference Finals over the Celtics. I can’t stop thinking about how they were turned down at the last minute. Maybe it was because they were young. Or maybe it was because they were a bit flawed. But it wasn’t because they weren’t admirable in their efforts. They played up to their competition, from the onslaughts of the Bulls series to the end of their battle with Boston. They just were missing one thing.
Just like the boy back in high school, he was missing the title of “senior starting Quarterback” and the Sixers were missing a “knock down” shooter.
One of the biggest flaws that prevented Philly from getting to go to the dance was their lack of offensive prowess. I mean a severe lack of anything consistent; anything dependable; anything clutch.
Take a look at these numbers,
Game 1: 43.9 FG%, 35.7 3P%, 70.0 FT%
Game 2: 40.8 FG%, 35.7 3P%, 71.4 FT%
Game 3: 40.7 FG%, 53.3 3P%, 77.3 FT%
Game 4: 37.8 FG%, 45.5 3P%, 67.4 FT%
Game 5: 46.8 FG%, 33.3 3P%, 62.5 FT%
Game 6: 45.7 FG%, 11.1 3P%, 60.7 FT%
Game 7: 35.0 FG%, 27.8 3P%, 70.0 FT%
Series: 41.5 FG%, 34.6 3P%, 68.5 FT%
Playoffs: 41.1 FG%, 30.4 3P%, 71.9 FT %
For comparisons sake, here are the Charlotte Bobcats season averages in those three categories:
41.4 FG%, 29.5 3P%, 74.6 FT%
Charlotte won seven games all season.
The stats only get worse from there. Take a look:
Out of the 16 playoff teams, the Sixers ranked 12th in total point per game (85.7), 12th in field goals made (32.1), 12th in field goal percentage (41.1%), 14th in three pointers made (4.0), tied for 10th in three point percentage (30.4%), 11th in free throw percentage (71.9%), 11th in points per shot (1.10) and 15th in adjusted field goal percentage (43.6%).
Now with all of that said, it must be stated that being an offensive juggernaut is not how the Sixers were built. It wasn’t in the stars for them. The team was constructed by uniting young athletes that make up for their offensive deficiencies with effort on the defensive end; a.k.a. “the Doug Collins way”. That aspect has shown all season long; for better and for worse. It was evident in the playoffs that this trend continued to push the Sixers past their opponents in the Bulls and the Celtics. If you flip the stats over, any Sixer fan who takes pride in the defensive aspect to the NBA would relish in the numbers that push the Sixers up into the upper echelon in every one of the categories during the playoffs. They were the Chicago Bears or Baltimore Ravens of the NBA if you will; regular season and after.
It was defense or bust for the Sixers and ultimately and in heartbreaking fashion, they ended up getting busted. When the Sixers can hold an opposing team to their defensive game plan, while scoring in the post, they have looked like the second best team in the Eastern Conference; second only to Miami. But when they played sloppily on the opposition and couldn’t get anything going inside the paint and out, they looked like the team most critics predicted to lose in four or five games to both Chicago and Boston.
Now, some will say that Collins needed to let go a little bit and allow the youthful roster to move up and down the court more freely. Some will say that defense truly does win championships and the Sixers were on the right track; falling just short to a veteran Celtics team that knew what it took to win a Game 7 at home. Others will proclaim that the 7-6 were the unfortunate victims of two of the strongest defensive and playoff savvy teams in the Eastern Conference Playoffs this year. Then there will be those that will blame the current roster construction and its “side of the milk box” offensive talent.
We here at Philadunkia side with the latter.
So how do they fix that? Where do they go from here?
I’ll address that on Thursday.